(ARA) - In the United States, chronic hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne viral disease. In spite of this, many people may not be aware that they have it; an estimated 70 to 80 percent of people newly infected with chronic hep C do not have symptoms. Of the approximately 3.2 million Americans living with the disease, an estimated 1 million are Hispanic. Three-time Grammy(R) winner Jon Secada knows the importance of taking action when it comes to health. In 2011, the popular Cuban-American artist and songwriter lost his father due to complications associated with a chronic hep C infection that went untreated. Like other Hispanic-Americans, Jon's family had always been close, but they didn't speak openly about their personal health, something Secada would now change if he could. "Chronic hepatitis C is often called a silent disease because, like my father, people can live with the virus for years without showing any symptoms," says Secada. "I don't know how my father contracted chronic hepatitis C, and I'm not sure if he knew either," Secada says. "The truth is, it doesn't matter. If I had really understood how serious chronic hep C could be, I would have urged him to talk to his doctor and to seek help. That's why I'm now encouraging others to learn more about the disease; nobody should feel alone if they think they may have the disease." When Secada's father was diagnosed many years ago, there was little information about chronic hep C, and options were limited. Today, Secada is aiming to change that. He is now part of the bilingual educational campaign, Tune In to Hep C, - Hepatitis C-Toca El Tema in Spanish - which was founded by Merck in collaboration with the American Liver Foundation. Through English- and Spanish-language websites, the campaign provides information about the disease and what to consider if you or someone you love has been diagnosed. The websites also feature bilingual interactive patient resource guides for those who know they have the disease or suspect they might. Secada joins fellow Grammy(R) winners Gregg Allman and Natalie Cole on the Tune In to Hep C campaign in hopes that sharing his family's personal experience will motivate other Hispanic-Americans with chronic hep C to take action by seeking out information and speaking to their doctors about their options. Secada is also using his passion for music to honor his late father and to tell others about his family's experience. In March 2012, Secada wrote an official song for the Tune In to Hep C campaign. The song, released in both English and Spanish is called, "Your Voice Inside," or "Tu Voz Te Dira." In the song, Jon's message is clear: Don't wait to take action and talk to your doctor. Doing nothing is not an option. "Before my father died, I talked with him about joining this public awareness campaign, and he wanted me to share our family's story to help others. I want others to understand that you can't be silent with a silent disease. You have to power to do something about it," says Secada. For more information about chronic hep C and the Tune In to Hep C campaign, visit www.TuneIntoHepC.com. Resources in the Spanish-language can also be accessed through the website.
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